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UKCSI – State Of The Nation Update

Customer satisfaction on the high street seems to be pulling out of the destructive nose dive we’ve seen in the last 4 waves.

The July 2015 results from the UKCSI are out now and as in earlier posts, I’ve trawled the results and here is a summary for you. Uk map UKCSI

The previous two years of decline seems to have now plateaued with the index rising by a meagre 0.2 from this survey wave to 76.2 overall (out of 100). Way down from the heady heights of 78.2 in January 2013.

194 companies received a score with 56 companies improving by 1 point or higher, with 86 companies registering a fall of 1 point or more.

Interestingly, the historically lowest performing sectors like public sector and utilities are up by at least 1 point in the last 12 months, whereas the higher performing sectors like retail food (-1.2), automotive (-1.4), leisure (-1.4) and services (-1) are down by at least 1 point in the last 6 months.

In terms of sectors, retail food is still top overall with Amazon the highest ranked company at 86.3. Retail food is second with Waitrose ( 84.5) and Tourism is third with Centre Parcs (82.1) taking pole.

UKCSI sector table

Variation within sector though is still vast, with public sector and travel showing a 21 point difference between highest and lowest performers.

Whilst the sectors included are still the same overall there’s some noticeable new entrants signalling a change to established players who need to be wary and double their efforts if they want to keep their ground and not loose further gains.

Ovo energy tops the utilities sector, with Giff Gaff leading Telecomms and Media whilst LOVEfilm top the leisure sector. No surprise on the really latter given its acquisition by Amazon in 2011.

ovo-energy

The usual suspects are still top of the table; first direct, Amazon and John Lewis, despite the latter two showing a decline in performance over the last 12 months down 1.3 and 1.5 respectively.

Again LOVEfilm have had a storming 12 months with the single biggest increase out of the top 50 companies, up a whopping 8.2 points year on year to take them up to fourth place overall.

Skoda is the only automotive company in the top 20 at 11th place (83.0 up 0.3), and Premier Inn is the only hotel chain in the top 50 (80.8 down 1.2).

Most improved, in addition to LOVEfilm are Ryanair (up 8.6 to 68.8) and Southeastern Trains (up 8.4 to 66.9).

Ease of doing business is a key driver to high levels of customer satisfaction and a differentiator between high and low performers. Most of the top 20 performers also rated highly on ease of doing business and low customer effort should be included by organisations looking to improve their overall customer experience.

So why does all this matter?

Well, the UKCSI has tracked the relationship for the last 3 years between customer satisfaction, sales growth and market share for food retailers, a very pressurised market for consumer spend and behaviour, where customer preferences quickly affect business performance.

The research show a strong correlation between customer satisfaction, growth and market share with organisations seeing a 5.5% increases in growth with a score of 1 point higher than the average, compared to a 1% reduction in growth with a mere 1 point performance below the UKCSI average.

Retail Sales Growth

According to the Kantar World panel, Aldi (7th in the UKCSI) lead the way with 15% annual growth follow by Lidl at 10% (outside the top 50) and below the sector average despite performing lower on satisfaction than Waitrose, Iceland and Asda.

The July results further demonstrate and reinforce the view that we have firmly entered the relationship economy.

Customers giving an organisation a 9 or 10 out of 10 are much more likely to trust, recommend and stay with an organisation over those that score 8 showing that companies need to be both aiming and performing at the highest levels in order to keep customers in an era of rapid technology advances and disruptive new entrants to markets.

Organisations achieving scores of 9 or 10 achieve 96% loyalty compared to only 65% of companies getting scores of 8. In addition they achieve 55% of customer recommendation compared to only 39% of those that get an 8.

TrustWordCloud

The biggest gap is around trust with 83% of customers trusting an organisation which they score 9 or 10 out of 10, compared to only 39% of customers who score an 8.

That’s a massive difference that pushes the performance (and expectation) bar only higher.

Companies also need to address how they serve the millennial generation (born 1981-2004) who are the least satisfied generation and the only age group to have fallen year on year, even behind 18-24 year olds. Interestingly however, younger people appear to be more tolerant (and satisfied) when it comes to complaint handling.

The Welsh are most satisfied at 78, compared to the South East who are the least satisfied at 75.2. From a gender perspective, women are on average more satisfied than men, although this varies at sector level where for example in automotive, men are more satisfied, compared to utilities where it’s women.

The volume of complaints expressed by customers are broadly the same year on year at 13.2% with some sector like utilities with lower satisfaction levels, experiencing a higher percentage of complaints at 14.9% compared to retail non food at 9.8% with telecoms at 22.2%.  However nearly a third of customers (26.9%) are ‘silent suffers’  with the view that making a complaint won’t make a difference.

Shouting down phone

The top 3 problems experienced by customers are;

  1. Quality or reliability of good or services (30%)
  2. Staff competence (25.9%)
  3. Late delivery or slow service (25.1%)

A more alarming trend seems to be around escalation and compensation.  41.3% of customers who made a complaint needed to escalate it, up 3% year on year with 31.7% of customers asking for compensation up from 28.1% 12 months ago.

Complaint handling is both a hygiene factor and a differentiator and staff should be empowered and empathetic to meet the needs of customers to avoid damaging relationships and trust, which is difficult to recover.

It’s clear from this latest set of results that customer expectation continues to rise at pace with competition with the pace of change intensifying. The relationship economy continues to be built on quality relationship with customers, and those organisations that see beyond the product and commodity view of the world and both meet and deliver on customer’s psychological needs will continue to outperform and lead the way. However, this is a long term game and businesses should set their sights accordingly, whilst be flexible and adaptive to change. The ‘agile’ approach is the way forward for business and customers.

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The $30 trillion challenge

“My lesson for financial services brands, actually for all brands, is that delivering the best customer experience is something that technology can enable and make better. But it will always require people who are well trained, compassionate, and empowered to solve the toughest problems, money being key among them. Different customers want different levels of high tech versus high touch engagement. Technology will enhance the experience. The brands that win will be the brands that know how to use it to get closer to the customer.  With $30 trillion at stake, I’d figure out how to get really close.”

triljoenOneThis is the closing paragraph from a recent Forbes article by Allen Adamson and the full article is here for you to read.

He makes the case that brands, most noticeably in the financial services sector need to use technology as an enabler to deliver great customer experiences, as well as being able to make more tailored offerings to individual customer (and channel) preferences which I’d all agree with.

However, what’s more interesting is the $30 trillion he makes reference to. (Here’s a nice little graphic to show what $1 trillion dollars looks like in $1 bills..! as does the image above)

The $30 trillion as Adamson explains is what’s expected to be left in wills and handed down from the Baby Boomer generation to the Millennials to invest and spend. The biggest wealth transfer ever!

That’s a significant amount of motivation for the financial services industry to up their game, should they choose to accept the challenge. Time will tell.

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npower’s toxic customer satisfaction has got worse – no really it has.

It’s that time of year again – the Which? customer satisfaction reviews on utilities are out and it makes for predictable reading.

The full results and reviews can be found here, although I’ll give you the highlights here.

The reviews are based on scoring from 9,400 consumers at the back end of 2014 across UK utility providers and their customer satisfaction performance across a number of categories;   Which best buy

  • Customer Service
  • Value for Money
  • Accuracy and clarity of bills
  • Complaints
  • Helping you to save money

 

Performance in these areas gets combined to give a percentage score overall.

Top 3 performers are;

  1. ecotricity – 84%
  2. goodenergy – 82%
  3. Ebico – 81%

Bottom 3 are (ex Northern Ireland);

  • EDF – 49%
  • Scottish Power – 41%
  • npower – 35%

It probably comes as no surprise that the ‘big 6′ all feature in the bottom half of the table with two of the bottom 3 companies – npower and Scottish Power all current under investigation and sanction from Ofgem.

npower are currently under investigation for potential breaches to their licence on meter installs for larger non domestic clients and potential breeches in standards on final bills and complaint handling standards for consumers. Details are here.

Scottish Power for a regulator imposed financial penalty and investigation into standards around final bills. Again, details are here.

So not great all in all for these companies.

The Utility sector also scores lowest in the UKCSI out this month with an index of 70.9 versus the top performing Retail (non food) sector scoring 81.4. A gap that barely seems to be closing.

Toxic

More interesting is where npower are now compared to exactly two years ago when their new incoming MD, Paul Massara ‘committed to make his company the industry’s number one for customer experience by 2015′ – as reported in Utility week here. More interestingly, their score then was 39%, 4% better than it is now so rather than get better, they’ve actually got worse.

 

I blogged about it last year and whether in practical terms getting to number one in two years could actually be done. If you want to read the original blog post it’s here, but the Which survey says it all really.

As an aside, while I was researching this blog, I came across an online petition, branded by Which? which calls for a ‘Fix the big 6′ campaign in a ‘broken energy market’. It’s currently got just short of 60,000 signatures…

 

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boohoo.com really do make you cry..

I’m not a fan of just blogging about companies that get things wrong about customer experience.

To be honest, it’s too easy a target (given how many examples there are) and I know how difficult it is to create seamless and consistent experiences. Having said that, this story is a good example, for lots of reasons, but especially because it highlights the need to be consistent with both customer experience, business processes and social media presence.

Responding to a tweet in 20 seconds can create a good impression which can be quickly destroyed if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do.

Let me begin..

Recently, my partner bought some items from the online clothing retailer boohoo.com. The website user experience was good, the items we’re chosen and bought and then delivered fairly quickly.

Boo hoo logoAs with buying clothes online, especially for fickle teenage girls, a number of the items needed to be returned which we duly did and the free returns process was relatively straight forward. The credit terms from memory was something like 2 weeks from boo hoo confirming receipt of the goods back which they did several days later by email. All good so far which is where the fun and games started.

Four weeks later we were still waiting for the credit so we decided to chase them to see where the credit was up to.

Trying to find a telephone number on the website was the first frustration. One didn’t exist that we could find which, arguably is the point of being an online retailer.

The customer service tab however did have lots of advice on return, order tracking, general queries section etc but still no phone number. We did however, find an email address so we fired off a quick note asking for an update.

Multi channel

The almost instant reply that came back said that ‘the Customer Service team are currently experiencing high volumes of enquiries and so are unable to respond at this time.’

No expectation management as to when they might be able to help, just that they were busy.

Channel hoping is a customer tactic that is increasingly utilised to get a response but one that companies find hard to manage well, so we deliberately switched from email to twitter to see if we could progress our issue. We quickly found their twitter customer service account and after a quick (sarcastic) tweet to provoke a response, we got a tweet back with an invite to send a direct message with our query within about 20 seconds. Wow – what a fantastically quick response and a result so we thought, and so we sent the message with our order details.

Quite quickly we were assured that the credit would be processed and the money would be refunded within a week. Perfect.

Two weeks later, the credit was still outstanding, so once again we took to twitter. We passed all the order details yet again, and again we were assured that the credit would be refunded. I tried to articulate that we’d been here before and had had all the same assurances previously and so I questioned given that this had been promised before, what would be different this time. No real additional assurance was given to me only that the credit would be actioned.  Promises

However, true to their word, albeit second time round the credit arrived about a week later.

So what can we observe from this?

Well firstly, as a customer I still want to talk to someone when I have a problem – online retailer or not. The only get out here to not having phone agents to talk to customers is for businesses to have bomb proof process behind the scenes that enable right first time delivery on customer needs.

Secondly, if you say you’re going to do something, then you have to do it. You could say I’m stating the obvious with this one, but this is one of the holy ten commandments of customer experience in my book.

Third, it’s no good being super fast and responsive on social media, raising customer expectations if you can’t deliver behind the scenes. It’s incongruent and does nothing for the customer experience, in fact it just erodes it.

Consistency across multiple channels is an area where many businesses are struggling. However this multi channel approach to contact is being driven harder and faster by customers from both the home and mobile with the need for immediate and responsive service and with little tolerance for those that can’t deliver quickly and seamlessly to meet customers needs.

This is definitely a theme that will remain the focus into 2015 for both businesses and customers so I’m sure we won’t hear that last of challenges like this.

 

 

 

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Sack all the cleaners

Before we start let me just clarify that I’m not about to call for the wholesales removal of cleaners from their current employment. Nothing of the sort. But I do want to talk about empowerment and ownership in relation to the customer experience. However, let me explain the cleaners reference though.

Solidarity with cleaners

At Disney, they obviously have cleaners which probably comes as no surprise, and they’re as integral as playing a part in the customer experience as all the other ‘cast members’ are. However it doesn’t end there. The customer experience, as taught thoroughly to cast members through the Disney Institute is everyone’s responsibility and everyone plays a role in the systems and processes that support consistently exceptional customer experiences.

To this end, everyone is expected to pick rubbish up the moment they see it, rather than wait for the cleaners to do it. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Litter doesn’t feature in fairy stories and nor does it feature at Disney Land. It’s immediately taken out of the equation restoring the immediate environment back to the fairy tale landscape it was to start with.

Disney castle

To me this, says as much about culture as it does about systems and processes and who’s ultimately responsible for picking the litter up. The answer of course is that everyone is. But the culture also says, “we’re all responsible for the customer experience, and we’re all empowered to act in a way that ensures the customer’s experience stays great each and every time”

There’s no aspect of the culture that supports the ” it’s not my job to pick up the litter, that’s the cleaners job” type mentality. Rather it’s the culture that says “we can all have a positive impact on the customer through the way we act and behave”. That’s a seriously strong set of value to operate by.

Compare that to many businesses, both large and small, where it’s self evident that they have’t got anything near the Disney approach to culture. Where instead, the culture supports and reinforces (deliberately or otherwise) the opposite to Disney. I’ve heard this first hand “I’m not calling the customer because that’s not my job. The customer cervices team should do it” or “I’m not in customer services.”

Let me say this. Firstly we’re all in customer services, (like we’re all in sales as Dan Pink writes) whether we like it or not.

Disney institute

Secondly, it doesn’t matter who makes the call (or picks the litter up) as long as it’s done as quickly and efficiently as possible to benefit the customer.

But often, business culture doesn’t support this for many reasons; a silo culture, lack of suitably strong values that people don’t take ownership of, a lack of responsibility and leadership to name but a few.

But it can be done and Disney continue to prove it and the template is there to be copied and adapted to fit; leadership, culture and values delivered through systems and process that enable and empower people, rather than restrict or constrict them.

You don’t need to be the scale or have the budgets of Disney to delivery a Disney- esque experience though. With the right framework in place, with the right people (your own team of ‘incredibles’, passion and energy to deliver a superior operation, and a few ‘believers’ to drive the customer experience vision you could create your own version of the Disney experience. incredibles

How about putting that at the top of your ‘to do’ list for Monday? (and please don’t sack any cleaners!)

 

 

 

 

Ownership, empowerment, responsibility of the customer experience by everyone not just customer facing teams.

Litter at Disney

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Is ‘easy’ the new driver of customer loyalty?

Customers that get ‘easy to do business with’ types of experiences are significantly more likely to return than those that don’t. Sounds common sense doesn’t it and yet some businesses seems to go out of their way to do the opposite.

EinsteinLooking back at the July results of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index, the 3 most popular adjectives used by customers to describe their experiences overall were “easy”, “friendly” and “helpful”. Businesses that deliver on this have, overall, higher levels of customer satisfaction, loyalty and recommendation which lead to higher sales and profitability.

This approach to ‘easy’ is being further developed by BT of all organsiations and championed by Dr Nicola Millard who has the very funky job title of ‘futurologist’. She was interviewed in August by Adrian Swinscoe for his RARE business podcast which I’d recommend a listen if you get a chance.

The irony isn’t lost on BT though who, by their own admission are the first to admit that they’re not the easiest company to do business with!

Shouting down phone

In the interview, Nicola talks about having developed a concept called ‘customer easy’ which uses a ‘net easy score’ as a means of understanding how easy it is for customers to deal with BT in their consumer business.

This isn’t a new concept though, as the understanding that ease and (lack of) effort are important components of great customer experiences and both the thinking and research on this has been around for at least the last 4-5 years or so.

Whilst concepts are great, organisations need a pragmatic way to understand how well they’re applying the customer easy concept on a day to day basis. Hence the customer easy metric was born.

By her own claims, Nicola says they ‘highjacked’ the net promoter score to come up with the net easy metric but that’s not all they’ve done.

metrics

Rather than using the traditional ten point scale of 1-10, or 0-10 with net promoter, Nicola uses a simple 3 point scale of +1, 0 or -1.

This simplified scale could be viewed as heresy by some research or net promoter purists but it’s an interesting approach and creates very bi-polar results. Arguably though, it’s definitely simple to complete from the customer’s perspective.

Customers score +1 for easy, -1 for difficult and 0 for neither, or for having no real opinion.

BT’s initial findings from their own data, correlate with the data from the UKCSI. Easy drives net promoter and customer loyalty scores and therefore recommendation, and customers who find it difficult to do business are more likely to defect.

BT look at ease by channel, so post versus phone versus web chat, with web chat coming out top.

They can also look at the impact of service design changes and see the result on customers by simplifying IVR routing for example. Something that BT have always seemed to have over complicated in the past so that’s welcome news to BT customers I would imagine.

Whether you like the net easy metric or not, or agree with the scale it uses, anything that businesses use to better understand and improve the customer experience is a positive things and if that results in shorter IVRs then I’m all for that.

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Cut cognitive load to improve customer experience

One of the more recent books I’ve read this year is the excellent ‘Scaling up Excellence’ with the very apt subtitle of ‘Getting to more without settling for less.’

As a very brief overview, the book details the work and research of Professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao of Stanford University in trying to understand the basic principles that allow organisations to scale successfully. Or, as in some of the real world case studies they document, how not to scale successfully with some painful and expensive lessons learnt along the way.

There’s a lot in the book that’s relevant to the world of customer experience and some useful lessons and principles that can and should be applied by many businesses and organisations, not only to scale but to improve customer experience.

Brain slide

One such scaling principle is ‘cut cognitive load’. The phrase sounds complex, but the principle as demonstrated repeatedly through research, is simply based on the ability of conscious memory to deal with mental load or work under increasingly complex environments.

Take memorising a series of random numbers. The ‘magic’ number for most people’s memory is 7 based on previous memory research. Try and memorise 10 or 12 digits and you’ll feel cognitive load at work!

It’s the same with multi tasking, as much as we think we’re good at it, research has again proven that the more tasks we take on, the worse we perform. In essence, multi tasking undermines everyone’s competence.

The underlying mantra then is to recognise when cognitive overload occurs in both employees and customers when business or organisational complexity increases. Alternatively overload occurs when product choices or options increase or when the customer decision making process becomes overly complicated or cumbersome.

 

It’s at this point of increased load for employees, that efficiency start to decline, mistakes are made and attention and focus shifts elsewhere. In the customer’s world, increased cognitive load makes purchasing and buying decisions harder, more frustrating and can and will lead customers to abandon purchases altogether and defect to competitors.

Websites are a great example of this with abandonment stats on purchases online as high as three quarters (75%) in 2013, alarmingly up from the 2012 figures.

Biting computer

However by both understanding and applying the principles of scaling overall, but especially cutting cognitive load customer experience can be significantly improved to the benefit of both customers, the organisation and the bottom line.

Other key lessons to reduce cognitive load within a business include using smaller work teams (less than double digits in size), applying the ‘less is best’ approach, and understanding that process and hierarchy are good (and essential) but only to a point, before the bureaucracy becomes self sustaining.

The appeal of understanding cognitive load on customers within the customer experience is a valuable one and adds another approach for businesses looking to take their customer experience to the next level. However, there’s no point using it the most obvious and painful sources of customer irritation are removed or reduced first. Unless of course, it’s cognitive load that the issue!

Pulling hair

Next time you’re at work or you’re being a customer, in a complex environment or processing a complex task, see if you experience cognitive load and reflect on what if any impact it has on your behaviour and how it makes you feel. Now you can’t beat a good experiment can you?

If you want to read more on the topic, try Scaling up Excellence itself, or this article on cognitive load theory and how it relates to learning.

 

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Indifference or inertia isn’t customer loyalty

After sending an unrecognised 0808 telephone number to voicemail recently I foolishly answered the phone after the third or fourth call.

As I suspected, it was my mobile phone network provider who initially claimed they were calling to ‘thank me for my loyalty!’

mobile globe

They then went on to review my account with them, tariff and data usage etc which I monitor myself anyway. After concluding that there wasn’t an opportunity to sell me additional services (well that’s what the cynic in me thought), they then thanked me again for my loyalty which got me thinking. Am I really loyal in the true context of the word?

First stop was google then the dictionary.

Loyalty: Allegiance, fealty, fidelity, faithfulness, constancy.

Well I’ve certainly been constant. I’ve been with the same provider for the last 3 years which in the mobile telecoms industry might seem like a life time!

Do I have an allegiance to them? Not really. Faithfull? Not really a word I’d use to describe my relationship with a mobile phone carrier to be honest.

iphone

The last 3 years have, in fairness, been trouble free. My handset works but that’s down to Apple, not the carrier. I’ve never had a problem on my account or with my billing. They bill on time and accurately but that’s what I would expect them to be able to do.

But in customer experience loyalty terms, would I recommend them? I’m not sure I would to be honest. Not because any aspect of their service has been poor because it hasn’t, but they’ve just done what I expected them to do from the outset. Nothing more, nothing less and that’s not enough to generate loyalty between customers and businesses. In this respect, you could say I’m transactionally attached, but there’s no emotional attachment.

The reasons I haven’t swapped provider are two fold. Firstly there’s the fact that it all works as it should do, which again is what I expected it to do so they’ve met my expectation but not exceeded it. So I’m satisfied yes, but not highly satisfied. Out of 10, I’d say I’d score them a 7 or 8 in customer satisfaction terms.

Secondly they’ve never given me a reason to change. I’ve never been dissatisfied with them.

However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m loyal. If another carrier approached me with a better deal I’d definitely consider it so I’m not loyal in that respect. I’m not actively looking though because I don’t currently need to. For me to be loyal, I’d need to score them at least a 9, or even 10 out of 10.

But I don’t think it’s fair to claim that I’m a loyal customer and this is where both businesses and brands can become complacent because I’m really a customer waiting to defect and it’s probably only a matter of time. Whilst, some businesses would kill to get customer satisfaction scores of 8 out of 10, it’s not enough to build loyalty.

Apple tattoo

What businesses should be looking to do is to build customer loyalty by providing over and above their core offering, building engagement through interaction with customers and looking for opportunities to go above and beyond by anticipating customer needs and aiming for those 9 and 10 out of 10 scores.

Only then can businesses build on highly satisfied customers rather than those that are ‘just satisfied’ which is the category I’d put myself in with my provider.

This in part is why building customer loyalty is so difficult if your customer service, your product or offering doesn’t standout. If it’s just ok, or even good it’s probably not enough.

 

 

 

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You can’t manage from the board room or the balance sheet alone

I like watching Under Cover Boss because apart from it being interesting on many levels, it never fails to highlight how businesses cannot be run solely from either the balance sheet alone or from the ivory towers of a head office, despite claims of the best management reporting and a transparent, open and communicative culture.

I recently watched an episode which featured a company called Pet’s Corner who I’d Pets_Corneractually not heard of before. However, it transpires that they’re a pet shop chain with 89 stores currently, mostly across Southern England and the Midlands. They’ve grown mostly by acquiring smaller pet shops and then rebranding them to look and feel like the Pets Corner corporate brand.

Overall the business is looking to expand significantly by opening a new store every month, albeit having been in the red for the last 2 years. As a way of trying to return the business into the black, they decided to significantly cut staff costs based purely on the balance sheet numbers alone in addition to the fact that sales figures overall were down with no signs of growth. Hence the reason for going undercover.

The board wanted to know that when they scaled, they weren’t just going to scale up their current problems into their news stores increasing their financial issues. They wanted to understand and fix any current issues first to ensure that they had the best chance of scaling successfully. Within the first day of the Product Development Manager, Steve Charma going undercover, it was quite clear what was wrong. In the first store that he visited, the impact of the staff cuts were clear. There was one Shelves-emptystaff member alone responsible for a thousand foot plus store. That one staff member, stocked shelves, served customers, unpacked deliveries and answered queries but more interestingly, had to shut the shop to go to the toilet and at lunch time. The result was missed sales opportunities and customers left to wait longer than desired. In addition, the manager’s position had been vacant for 3-4 months and the shop signage was failing to draw footfall from the Tesco store next door.

None of the impact of these issues could have, or would have been determined from the view from head office alone or from management reporting. Further stores visited highlighted stockroom and stock storage issues, damaged products, empty shelves and further lost sales opportunities, none of which were visible from head office and despite the fact that the company spent £100,000 per year on mystery shopping.

One store however, was bucking the trend. The in store team had taken the initiative and had been running a Pets day where customers could bring in their exotic pets and discover other rare animals and exotic breads. Steve Charma was initially not happy due to the fact that head office didn’t know this was going on and they hadn’t been consulted. He was more concerned about brand standards and health and safety issues.

Exotic lizard However, when sales at the half way point in the day were 10% up on the store average, his view quickly changed. A lack of management and leadership, shortfalls in sales training, staffing levels and product storage issues were the barriers to scaling. Ironically all of which had been initiated by head office without consultation, consideration or even observation with the ‘troops on the ground’.

Despite that, they staff were mostly doing a great job, delivering good customer service and in some instances, taking the initiative to increase sales and the customer experience. Overall quite an eye opening experience for the board who at the end of the programme, committed to significant changes. However for me there was a key takeaway which in hindsight is so obvious, but still so frequently overlooked.

MBWA as management guru Tom Peters called it. Management by walking around. You can plan all you like in the board room but without consulting staff and understanding the impact on customers, the best intended plans will fall short. You can cut costs on the balance sheet, but without consulting staff and considering the impact on customers, isolated decisions made on paper without intelligence from the ground, can and will  have the opposite effect to what’s intended. Such is the value in engaging both staff and customers regularly on future decisions and plans, in addition to key decision makers getting out and about regularly to see where the real business operates, which isn’t in the boardroom or on the balance sheet.